Floods threaten Greek city of Larissa, people elsewhere rescued

Floodwaters cover a suburb after the country's record rainstorm, in Larissa, Thessaly region, central Greece, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.
Floodwaters cover a suburb after the country's record rainstorm, in Larissa, Thessaly region, central Greece, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Copyright Vaggelis Kousioras/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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The death toll from severe flooding in central Greece rose to 10 people on Friday, while another four remained missing.

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Although the severe rainstorms have eased the floodwaters have still been rising in parts of central Greece.

Authorities sent alerts to cell phones in the areas around the city of Larissa, warning that the Pineios River had burst its banks. Parts of Larissa, which has a population of around 150,000, were already starting to flood.

“The situation is tragic,” Larissa resident Ioanna Gana told Greece’s Open television channel, adding that water levels in her flooded neighbourhood were rising “minute by minute.”

Meanwhile fire department and military helicopters were plucking people from villages inundated by tons of water and mud that have left at least six people dead, six missing and many people clinging to the roofs of their homes.

Flooding triggered by rainstorms also hit neighbouring Bulgaria and Turkey, killing a total of 18 people in all three countries since the rains began on Tuesday.

Severe rainstorms have lashed the country, turning streams into raging torrents that burst dams, washing away roads and bridges and hurling cars into the sea. Authorities said that some areas received twice the average annual rainfall for Athens in the space of just 12 hours.

Hundreds of people were believed to be trapped in villages unreachable by vehicle as roads were washed away or severed by rockfalls, with helicopters and boats evacuating residents. Rescue crews helped young children, the elderly and people on stretchers from helicopters as they landed in a staging area in the town of Karditsa.

The coast guard said that 270 people had been airlifted to safety on Thursday and Friday, while rescues by air and by boat continued.

One video posted by General Staff of National Defence showed a military helicopter rescuing people stranded in their home in central Greece on Friday.

The coast guard said the body of a 69-year-old man was recovered from the sea in the coastal town of Volos on Friday, but added that it wasn't clear whether the flooding was responsible for his death. Local media reported the man slipped and fell from rocks while trying to get fresh water as the flooding had knocked out the local water supply.

Elsewhere, residents of villages left without electricity or drinking water rang television and radio stations, appealing for help and saying people were still trapped on rooftops without food or water.

Between Tuesday and early Friday, the fire department said that more than 1,800 people had been rescued and the department had received more than 6,000 calls for help in pumping water from flooded homes and removing fallen trees.

In the Pilion area, residents and tourists were ferried to safety by sea late on Thursday as all access roads to some villages were severed.

Authorities have deployed swift water rescue specialists and divers as floodwaters rose above two metres high in some areas, leaving many houses flooded up to their roofs. Residents of some villages have reported buildings collapsing completely.

The flooding followed on the heels of devastating wildfires that destroyed vast tracts of forest and farmland, burned homes and left more than 20 people dead.

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